It is time for part two of the Halloween Trail of Tears 2019 posts. Last post I took you through the multi day..err..weeks…err months process just to get ready for the one night event. That doesn’t even cover the work that goes on non-stop throughout the year to bring new additions to the trail. That pretty much just gets us to the starting line. Once everything is put together (to a point it can still be transported into the woods), it is time to start creating the experience. Up to a few years ago we did this all in about a day starting after work on Friday and then through until ~5-6pm the next day literally adding new and fixing stuff that wasn’t working right up to the point guests start arriving. With the size this has grown into since then, I have to take at least two days off of work to even have a chance of getting done – still a battle against time. The way the trail works is it gets scarier and more adult the further you go. The guests are responsible for how far they want to take it and more importantly how much to expose their kids to. We spend a lot of time making sure the kids and squeamish adults can have a good time if they only get a portion of the trail. Go the whole way and the nightmares are on you ha!
Keeping with tradition, bringing you the daylight tour. There is one caveat this year. We were too busy to get the shots done before the event started – as I said, a battle against time and Mr. Murphy. These shots were actually taken the next morning before tear down and thus some of the props had already been through a night’s worth of wear and tear as in the shot below.
New for this year was the life size zombie horse and companion homemade headless horseman. There was a lot of concern about a) fire deep in the woods, b) stability of the flaming pumpkin, c) how flammable the decoration might be and d) how hard it was going to be to get this monstrous prop down the big hills to the haunted trail. As a result, I added a solid stand to hold the flaming pumpkin and opted to keep the decoration up by the house. This way everyone could experience it and I could still keep an eye on it. You will see in the after dark post the stand merged into the darkness quite nicely. We received a lot of compliments for this new prop addition and can’t wait to take you through the build (upcoming post).
Hit the jump to see some scenes from the Haunted Trail day tour.
If there is one area we can always get creative on is the multitude of skeletons that adorn the trail. They take a heavy amount of wear and tear over the years, but nothing goes to waste in our Halloween planning. Pretty sure Andreas set this scene for us.
We do have a lot of really large spiders that stalk our woods during warmer seasons. Recommend NOT falling asleep in the woods.
This year I tried to give wider angle shots of the trail. You kind of lose a bit of the experience just looking at specific decorations. This starts to provide a feel for the breadth and amount of decorations the trail experience brings. The section below is our spider ally complete with even bigger spiders and victims.
… and then looking back.
Who says skeletons can’t be friendly!?!
Likely more of Andreas’ work. Although not actually anatomically correct from a skeletal perspective, the animals with ears are just the cutest … in a Halloween sort of way of course.
This next decoration brings an interesting design challenge to our custom built IR sensor props as this one spins 360 degrees. Typically we can just put the sensors into the ground hidden from view where that would simply tangle the wires with this prop. A little noodling solved the dilemma. Note, we have to use heat sensors due to all the movement in the woods thanks to the wind and leaves. Otherwise the props would be going off the entire time where we prefer to surprise guests by triggering them at the optimal time.
The howling wolf is one of the props we get a lot of good feedback on. Howls, moves and lights up once triggered.
Think the next one is a new prop for this year thanks to the previous year’s Halloween clearance sale at Home Depot. Never miss a clearance or last day sales when it comes to the highly inflated prices Halloween props go for during the prime season.
Another wide shot to set the feel. Note, almost all these props are animated in some manner so imagine being hit non-stop with scary sounds, haunted movements and hidden surprises.
More wide shots, this one at the entrance of the more adult section – translated zombies, sacrificial body parts, clowns and one of the props that has been with us a while now, the custom built Grim Reaper.
Will be getting to another of the new props sometime soon, but you can see a sneak peak of it in the lower left corner – Ron gave it the clever name of Ned. This next prop was from my friend in haunt Paul. They rotate with creepy background music. It experienced some difficulties this year, but pretty sure he has that solved for next year’s trail.
Picked up this impressive prop at half price – again thanks to after Halloween sale at Home Depot. This witch does it all, lights up, talks with mouth movement and even lunges at unsuspecting victims. Very nice addition to the trail and again got a lot of positive feedback on it.
Generally rule, no tree along the trail goes without a prop!
The Dracul prop from last year was once again part of the cemetery scene. We liked the mechanical spreading wings behind the custom built tombstone. Think for next year I’ll hit the wings with some fluorescent purple paint to make it stands out in the darkness under a black light.
Another new prop from Home Depot’s clearance sale. This was a nicely built resin prop that is incredibly heavy for how much it cost. The eyes have LEDs in them as well. A great addition to the cemetery.
My first ground grabber was back. It took some wear over the night and it looks like the sleeves slipped a bit. The head and hands light up and the wiper motor makes the arms extend. Not bad for my first attempt many years ago.
The winged gargoyle was one of the few failures this year. The mechanical wings that worked flawlessly last year refused to work this year. Not sure what happened as it is now in my basement and I’m still trying to get it working. We are always fighting ghosts in the machines – most of the time we get them figured out before the event.
More custom props for the cemetery. The zombie silhouette undergoes a huge transformation after darkness falls. The white outlines are just a catch for the backlighting.
The Alford tombstone needs to get the airbrush treatment that I put on the other tombstones. This was one of my first ones and wasn’t sure what to do with the lettering at the time. It looks good in the daylight, but hard to see it at night. A hit of black paint in the valleys will produced the desired contrast. Oh, and my second ground grabber which is one of my favorites. The head raises up and down, the arm extends out and back and even put LEDs in the eyes. Al was a fine addition to the cemetery.
Another of my tombstones that made its debut last year. You can definitely see the benefit of the black in this one.
I get to take credit for this skeleton scene. The dog lights up and barks when its sensor is triggered. Linda admitted she totally missed this in her walkthrough. Sigh, all that creativity lost … luckily more alert guests saw it and appreciated it.
In the last prep post I mentioned there was a new Posey I threw together from spare parts. Well, here it is. The doll came from a friend of mine at work. Think she was cleaning out her grandmother’s house and found some of the creepiest dolls I’ve ever seen – so much she wanted no part of them and thought I might have a use for them – someone that certainly knows me ha! When I have more time will probably animate at least the arm and add some screaming little girl effects.
You’d think with all that sun she would have a better tan.
Another closer picture of Ned. At the end of the night the rotating doll slipped off of the motor. Just got that all fixed for next year so it should be ready for whatever the night throws at it. Thankfully it didn’t fail until late when most of the guests were already done walking the trail.
Clown in a box got a major mechanical upgrade this year. The rotating arc was reduced to keep from hitting any of the unsuspecting guests and the connection of the pole to the wiper motor was strengthened so it wouldn’t strain to make the loop. The head is filled with hard foam and seemed a little dangerous as it whipped around. All solved now and worked flawlessly through the night. Still a heavy prop – Ron wants me to remake the box in balsa wood – we’ll see if I have time this year.
The dancing zombie also worked flawlessly this year thanks to a better design added during the off season. The clothing kept getting caught up in the linkages eventually binding it up in previous years. The new plastic shield in back kept it jam free the entire night. Add some additional sound to it and it should be a great prop for years to come (the head and arms move in very nice zombie like jerkiness).
Paul once again thought up a cool new prop for the trail. No idea where he got the props, but they looked exactly like frozen heads. They might have even been real movie props. Add some companion props and presto, a new addition to the adult themed area.
He also knows I hate the Beatles so it was both terrifying and humorous.
Another mechanical Posey! This one had to take last year off due to an early mechanical failure during staging. All fixed for this year and worked great. The lantern goes in the outstretched hand – had to take it off at the end of the night to get the batteries out. Next year will try to add sound to this one as well. My new sound circuit design is finished and hoping to start mass producing mid-year.
You can thank Brad Shapland for this creepy ass clown prop. A couple of years ago he helped throw this new Posey together from leftover parts – it didn’t look that bad until we put the clothes on – then it became a hellspawn Harley Quinn. Reminds me I need to hit the yellow foam body (Great Stuff) with some black or bloody paint to polish it up.
An old favorite – my first clown Posey – still scaring the crap out of guests year after year.
Another new zombie Posey – Linda got me this mask last year for my birthday – she gets me.
More trail shots.
A view into the adult level section of the trail. I label it as that, but truth is my great niece has zero issues with this section of the trail. One of these years I am finally going to be able to scare her – in the meantime, I recommend her parents getting her some counseling – something is definitely wrong with her ha!
Damn clowns freak me out even in the daytime. By the way, my great niece likes getting selfies with Mr, Hugs.
Just your everyday demon sacrificial ceremony. Nothing to see here, carry on.
Hopefully you are getting a feel for how big the trail is. Hard to describe to people when newbies ask what to expect – I simply tell them to wear comfortable hikers.
Beware Pumpkinheads. Really a nasty lot as they tend to hide themselves in the woods catching wanderers off guard. These are Paul’s decs by the way.
And now we come to this year’s “favorite” trail decoration. Once again, Paul has risen to the occasion and brought us a decoration that guests are STILL talking about. Incredibly creepy Talkie Tina (link here) of Twilight Zone fame. An unbelievable re-creation of that revengeful doll complete with movement and sound. Well done Paul!
Paul’s other genius addition to the trail was the new beer bottle torches. It is extremely dark on the trail once the sun goes down as very little ambient light is able to cut through the trees. Sometimes we get a full moon to help out, but we are always trying to find ways to bring additional lighting. These worked great and very simple – a beer bottle, a wick, a piece of PVC for the pole and then a cat food tin to hold the bottle. One fill of the bottle with Citronelle lasted the entire night.
Paul had a rough year on the trail this year. His other amazing Herman prop ended up having mechanical problems as well. Apparently the servos he used wore out after a while. Like the circle of skeletons, think he has upgraded them already for next year.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Nothing to see here, move along, enjoy your night….
It’s as if this trail never ends – queue Twilight Zone intro.
Lastly, one of the first Halloween decorations I ever built for the trail. Things have definitely progressed in the build complexity since the first years. Back then, a PVC frame, a foam ball and a hockey mask was all it took to scare the guests – expectations are a lot higher now and we are always glad to accommodate.
Eventually it all has to come down and that usually means a lot of work for the next couple of days depending on how the weather is shaping up. Typically it all comes off the trail the following day and placed in the out building to eventually have the batteries removed and then placed into storage bins for the following year. Again thanks to Ron and Paul for the heaving lifting after an already tiring night of fright.
Thankfully the new UTV made short work of the heavy items which in the past used to be carried out of the valley by hand.
Here’s Paul putting the final boxes of props in the truck. Still smiling after three hard days of work – clearly something we enjoy doing both for ourselves and the enjoyment of all our friends. By the way, Paul’s packing abilities are amazing. Clearly missed his calling in the moving industry.
There you have it, the day tour of the 2019 Haunted Trail of Tears Halloween extravaganza. Can’t say enough how appreciative I am of everyone pitching in to help make this bigger and better every year. Building props, unpacking, loading batteries, staging, hauling decorations to the trail, staging scenes, troubleshooting everything that doesn’t go as planned over the course of the night, giving guided tours, watching out for dangers, tearing down, hauling back up the hill, breaking props down for storage, removing batteries.. the list goes on. Not to mention all of Linda’s efforts back at the house to make sure the basement and food was ready for all the guests (this year fresh off of surgery). Stay tuned for the night tour post – that is where everything comes together for an epic Halloween experience.